Google has recently announced that it will be removing exact and phrase match keywords as of September 2014. While the exact match keyword type will still exist, close variant keyword matching will be applied meaning that your keyword will also trigger for close variations include misspellings, singular and plural forms, acronyms, stemmings (such as floor andflooring), abbreviations and accents.
Close variant matching was introduced by Google in 2012 to help business connect with relevant people. Google data suggests that 7% of searches contain misspellings and close variant matching allows you to reach these people where exact and phrase match would not. Even though close variant matching is enabled by default, previously advertisers could disable this option, which will no longer be the case.
How will this affect advertisers
The changes are set to only affect around 3% of advertisers according to figures published by wordstream, these generally being larger accounts, managed by agencies who want greater control of their campaigns. For the majority of adwords users, the other 97%, this change will make no difference as they will have been opted into variant matching by default and will already be using it.
Although there has been strong opposition by the PPC community about Google’s new change there will be a considerable amount of cases where keywords variants perform just as well as exact and phrase match keywords. The 3% of advertisers who want to continue to use exact and phrase match keywords will have to leverage negative keywords to block unnecessary searches resulting in considerably more work for their management team.
What other industry experts think about the removal of exact and phrase match:
Larry Kim – Founder of Wordstream
At WordStream, we estimate that the change is a non-issue for approximately 97% of Google AdWords advertisers that didn’t opt out of close variant keyword match type option and who didn’t employ keyword “match type trap” optimization strategies.
However the ~3% who were using exact and phrase match the old fashioned way will most certainly be impacted by the change. And for the record, we see no reason for why they had to remove an optional feature.
Matt Umbro – PPC Hero Blog
Though I disagree with Google’s decision to take away the option of turning off close variants, I’ve generally been happy with the feature. I primarily work with eCommerce accounts and find that variants generally perform within conversion and revenue goals. I conducted a study at the end of March and found that over a 13 month time frame, my accounts saw on average 8% of total conversions and revenue come from variants, with all key metrics at or under goal. In other words, if variants had been turned off, 8% of the total conversions and revenue would have been lost. I’m not saying that variants work for every campaign, but if Search Query reports are consistently monitored and negative keywords proactively implemented, the negative impact can be low.
Brad Geddes – Founder of Certified Knowledge
Variation match isn’t always bad, there are times it can be good to use variation match. However, there was choice. However advertisers are slowly loosing control, if you want control – please tell Google how bad of an idea this is. Loss of control is never good. Mobile control was lost with Enhanced Campaigns, and now you’re losing control over your match types. This will further erode your ability to control costs and conversions within AdWords.
Andrew lolk – Founder at white shark media
The general opinion is that this is a devastating move by Google who are out to reduce the possibilities of advertisers. However, removing the partial match feature needs to be considered from two angles:
1) Big advertisers:
Yes, for big advertisers this move is devastating and will cause agencies as well as in-house marketers to spend even more time splitting up exact match keywords into individual ad groups.
This will enable the to use negative keywords to take back some control over what searches the keyword is triggering.
2) Smaller advertisers:
This is where my opposite opinion comes into play. In White Shark Media we mainly manage AdWords accounts that spend between $1,000 and $10,000 in monthly ad spend. For advertisers of this size, the impact is miniscule. Yes, we still need to be on the lookout for deviations, but not at all on the same scale as 3Q Digital, Hanapin Marketing or Brad Geddes (who started a petition against the feature).
And this is what I want you to take away from this small section – Yes, the big advertiser will be hurting badly with this move, but if your account is small you will be able to manage the change quite easily.
Kevin Lee – CEO at Didit Marketing
Power users of AdWords such as the Didit team and sophisticated advertisers with larger budgets will be more likely to feel the impact of the changes in match type. Some customers of larger advertisers are doing nuanced searches with very specific intent with sufficient frequency to justify exact/phrase match in its purest form. The specificity of control in exact match made sense in certain cases where one wanted to exclude variants.
We understand Google’s intent in thinking that their algorithm knows best and agree that a simpler set of match types will benefit the large majority of advertisers. Variant enabled matching is also well suited for the next generations of search and display including voice, contextual and video context (transcript) targeted ads. However, some of us will be sad to see the old style exact and phrase match control disappear. Use of negative matching will allow us to regain some of that control, but not all
Jeff Ferguson – CEO at Fang digital marketing
It was a great move when it was first introduced months ago; however, as usual, Google probably needed to consider its next (forced) step a bit more. We gladly started using it as yet another way to discover new terms (since the “close variants” are identified in the keyword detail report separately), but it’s always nice to have options. Like any new change that Google makes, the reaction from the PPC community is ridiculously overly dramatic.
James Svoboda – CEO at Webrankings
AdWords recent change to make close variants the default query matching pattern for Exact and Phrase match keywords, once again shows that Google is more concerned with increasing ad spend than with advertiser satisfaction. The move also demonstrates Google’s lack of understanding when it comes to advanced advertiser needs (aka influencers of big ad budgets), account structure and keyword matching control. Several PPC professionals whom I highly respect have done recent studies on the impact of exact keyword variants and how it relates to volume and conversions. These studies show a significant pattern of increased volume yes, but at higher cost-per-conversion rates. And higher conversion costs is never a good thing.
All-in-all the current landscape of keyword matching options is akin to a post-apocalyptic Mad Max world where conversions are not safe and PPC control has become a legend that we’ll be someday telling the younger generation of marketers on how things were “back in the day”.
What are your views on Google’s changes? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.